By William I Miller
Audun’s tale is the story of an Icelandic farmhand who buys a polar endure in Greenland for no different cause than to offer it to the Danish king, part a global away. it will probably justly be indexed top-of-the-line items of brief fiction in global literature. Terse within the most sensible saga kind, it spins a narrative of advanced aggressive social motion, revealing the cool wit and finely-calibrated reticence of its 3 major characters: Audun, Harald Hardradi, and King Svein. the story must have a lot to have interaction criminal and cultural historians, anthropologists, economists, philosophers, and scholars of literature. The story’s remedy of gift-exchange is necessary of the superb anthropological and ancient writing on gift-exchange; its remedy of face-to-face interplay a fit for Erving Goffman.
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Additional info for Audun and the Polar Bear: Luck, Law, and Largesse in a Medieval Tale of Risky Business
4 The detail about Audun’s precise service to Thorir, about finding good debt placement, is missing in the more popular Morkinskinna version and it is crucial to giving a deeper sense to the story. It reveals See William Ian Miller, Bloodtaking and Peacemaking (Chicago, 1990), pp. 81–82. Ljósvetninga saga, ch. 1. One Norwegian merchant, who was thought excessive in reminding people about the debts they owed him, was murdered in a plot hatched by two local chieftains who meant to plunder the unpopular merchant’s goods; Vápnfirðinga saga, ch.
I will expand on this point later, because it is central to the story’s insisting that Audun’s long-shot successes are not completely matters of luck. And note too that ships in the story are not magically ready to sail 8 Hungrvaka, ch. 2 (ÍF 16), trans. Guðbrand Vigfússon and F. York Powell, Origines Islandicae, 2 vols (Oxford, 1905), 1:425–458; see Landnámabók, S 179 (ÍF 1:219), where white bears, a mother and two cubs, arrive on polar ice; trans. Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards, The Book of Settlements (Winnipeg, 1972), p.
But moving from the diction of buying and selling to the diction of gift-giving cannot be dismissed as really nothing more than offering a higher price, where “real” reality is about price terms, and the rest is all gloss. The diction of gifts might involve mystification, might indeed at times shroud in euphemism certain presently unavowable motives, but it is not “mere” mystification. The game of gifts is a very different 4 This kind of forced purchase is dealt with by the laws under the rubric of rán, or strong-armed taking.
Audun and the Polar Bear: Luck, Law, and Largesse in a Medieval Tale of Risky Business by William I Miller